We’re at the dawn of a new era for stunting, as players erase the unwritten rules from wherever it was that they were unwritten. Pitchers routinely strut off the mound after each strikeout. Bats are flipped, twirled, and tossed. Swellmets are bedazzled, tridents are hoisted.
And now we’re breaking new ground. Hitters have signature celebrations, like Josh Naylor’s hilariously unintimindating baby rocking. Players are even stopping the game to celebrate their achievements.
And players are pimping on defense now too.
With Madison Bumgarner having been run out of town on a rail, red assery is at an all-time low, but this stuff isn’t wholly without controversy. Arozarena got beaned in his next two plate appearances, and the baseball commentariat is pretty split on whether Franco’s ball flip was a bit much. (Personally, I love Arozarena’s posing and lean against Franco’s flip but don’t feel strongly.)
But even with all the new ways to pimp your play, my favorite is still a classic: toying with your prey. And in the middle of a dominant debut on Tuesday evening, Bryce Miller did just that to rack up his ninth strikeout.
Miller still puts the exclamation point on it with the spin off the mound, but that pitch was, by itself, showboating.
See, the prospect report on Bryce Miller is all about his fastball, and with good reason. He wasted little time getting to the top of the leaderboards with it.
Most strikes thrown in a 2023 MLB game— Codify (@CodifyBaseball) May 3, 2023
with 10" of drop (with gravity) or less:
Spencer Strider, 31
Bryce Miller, 27
Spencer Strider, 26
Spencer Strider, 26
Spencer Strider, 24
Spencer Strider, 22 pic.twitter.com/OS7TY6lIei
That elite rise on his fastball was thanks in no small part to having the highest spin rate on his four-seamer of any starter in MLB. His debut put his fastball at an RV/100 of -4.3, which is to say that for every 100 fastballs thrown, he’d give up 4.3 runs fewer than the average pitch. That made it the 59th best pitch out of 1,220 in MLB, and the second best on the Mariners. (Gabe Speier’s sinker comes in 10th at -6.8 RV/100, which is pretty cool too.)
If it’s working, why stop throwing fastballs? “They weren’t hitting them,” he told the Seattle Times after the game. “So I kept throwing ‘em.”
On top of that, he threw 16 cutters and seven sliders, with perfectly mirroring movement, running to opposite sides of the zone. But sometimes, when you’re really on one, you want to show off. And that’s what happened when Bryce Miller threw his only changeup of the game, pulling the string on Conner Capel for his ninth of ten strikeouts.
You think Bryan Reynolds felt demeaned when Franco flipped the ball? Imagine getting bullied by a guy in his very first time on an MLB mound only to learn that he has a pitch he wasn’t even using, a cambio with 19.9 inches of horizontal movement.
To be sure, Miller’s changeup won’t usually be such a good pitch. And Sunday’s game against Houston showed us that things won’t always be this easy for Miller. But don’t discount how big an accomplishment this outing was, no matter how bad the A’s are. Only one other pitcher has struck out at least 10 A’s without walking any this year: Jacob DeGrom.
In his first outing though, it couldn’t have looked any easier, ice running through his veins as he joked around with his catcher during the one moment he encountered even a whiff of trouble. So play of the week goes to Bryce Miller for demonstrating that there’s no more devastating way to show up your opponent that to show them that you’re dominating them without even giving them everything you’ve got.